WASHINGTON, D.C. (WGHP) – Laura Steele, the former High Point police officer who helped leaders of the Oath Keepers plan their assault on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, was found guilty on all charges on Friday.
Steele was found guilty by a jury in U.S. District Court in Washington along with three of her codefendants in a trial of six members of the Oath Keepers, a right-wing militia group, who entered the Capitol in a violent attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The report first was shared by CNN.
Sandra Parker, Connie Meggs and William Isaacs also were found guilty on all charges, and two others, Bennie Parker (Sandra’s husband) was acquitted of obstruction as well as one conspiracy charge, and Michael Greene was acquitted of two conspiracy charges, The Associated Press reported. “Jurors said they couldn’t reach a verdict on another conspiracy charge for Bennie Parker and the obstruction charge for Greene,” The AP reported, “so the judge instructed them to keep deliberating. All six defendants were convicted of a misdemeanor trespassing offense.”
Steele was guilty of six counts listed in an eighth superseding indictment for her role in helping Elmer Stewart Rhodes III, the founder and leader of the Oath Keepers, in planning to disrupt that lawful transfer of power in Washington.
Judge Ahmit P. Meta had overseen the trial for the past several weeks and even replaced a juror just before the start of deliberations.
Steele, a Thomasville resident, is one of the Piedmont Triad’s most prominent defendants among the 27 from North Carolina who have been accused of or sentenced for participating in a violent effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election based on former President Donald Trump’s lies about fraud.
Rhodes and Kelly Meggs in November were found guilty of seditious conspiracy in helping to organize supporters of Trump to overturn the lawful election of President Joe Biden. Three other defendants were found guilty of related felony charges.
Steele is one of more than 1,100 members of Oath Keepers in North Carolina – including at least two state legislators – and there also are the Proud Boys, another group of right-wing extremists. One of that group’s state leaders, Charles Donohoe of Kernersville, pleaded guilty to charges earlier this year and agreed to testify in the sedition trial of Proud Boys leader Enrique Tarrio, which has been underway in Washington.
It’s unclear when sentencing might occur, but The AP reported that conspiracy to obstruct Congress and obstruction of Congress both carry sentences of up to 20 years behind bars.
Aiden Bilyard of Cary, the youngest defendant from North Carolina, on Friday was sentenced to 40 months in prison after he pleaded guilty in October to one of nine original charges against him. He is one of eight from North Carolina to have been sentenced to prison terms. One received a suspended sentence. At least three others have entered pleas and are awaiting sentencing.
The Steele case
Latest indictment by Steven Doyle on Scribd
Steele is named in seven of nine counts in a 35-page indictment against the group. Those charges describe how Rhodes and certain regional leaders recruited members, including Steele, to travel to Washington. They are alleged to have worn paramilitary clothing and Oath Keepers identification as they overpowered guards and invaded the Capitol through the doors to the rotunda, court documents say.
Steele’s brother, Graydon Young of Englewood, Florida, is among several named in the document, but he was indicted separately He pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of Congress and was the first Oath Keeper to do so.
Steele is the only defendant in an eighth charge, which describes how she and Young on Jan. 7 allegedly used a backyard burn pit to destroy evidence of the attack, including their clothing.
Young’s plea and agreement to testify against Rhodes spared him a potential 30 years in prison. During the trial of Rhodes in October, he broke into sobs on the stand and apologized.
Impact of Jan. 6
A report by the bipartisan Jan. 6 committee confirmed how sometimes armed and violent protestors broke through windows and doors, discarded barricades and overran Capitol police and other guards to parade through the halls of Congress even as members of the House and Senate hid in fear and pleaded for help in securing the building and protecting themselves.
There were hundreds of injuries to law enforcement officers, death threats on the life of Vice President Mike Pence and others, and, ultimately, seven lives were lost during or after the insurrection.
Most recent court records suggest about 1,000 individuals have been arrested in all 50 states. The DOJ said that about 320 have been charged with assaulting or impeding law enforcement.
More than 518 have pleaded guilty, and more than 420 have been sentenced, including jail time for more than 220.